UN Goldstone Aide to Headline Palestinian Lobby Event

February 26, 2010

Geneva, February 26, 2010 UN Watch, the Geneva-based watchdog organization, today called on UN chief Ban Ki-Moon to stop Francesca Marotta, the head of the UN staff that compiled the Goldstone Report, from participating at a political lobbying event in Lausanne, Switzerland, in support of the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine.”

The full letter follows below.

***

His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary-General
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017

February 26, 2010

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are deeply concerned that the Head of the Secretariat of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict—the staff that drafted the Goldstone Report—is scheduled to participate tomorrow in a pro-Palestinian, political and lobbying event.

Ms. Francesca Marotta is listed as the first speaker at an event to support the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” advertised by Collectif Urgence Palestine, to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland, tomorrow, 27 February, at 2:30 pm. (See listing at here.)

The advertisement reads (translated from French original):

“On the eve of the first session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine to be held in Barcelona from 1 to March 3, 2010, the Swiss National Committee of Support to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine Calls to support this international citizen initiative with Francesca Marotta, the Secretariat of the Fact-Finding Mission that established the Goldstone Report, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights…” It goes on to list two other speakers.

As you may know, the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine” is a highly partisan and political exercise designed to use the rhetoric of law to lobby against Israel and for a one-sided Palestinian narrative. Its “verdict” is a foregone conclusion.

We further note that the Swiss organizer of this Lausanne event featuring Ms. Marotta, Collectif Urgence Palestine, organized a demonstration last year on 2 March 2009 in Geneva. (See here.) 

The demonstration’s stone throwing and verbal threats against Jewish community members was condemned as an apparently anti-Semitic incident by the UN Human Rights Committee, in its October 2009 report on Switzerland. (See here.)

Article 100 of the UN Charter requires that the UN Secretariat avoid partisan and political entanglements that compromise the principles of neutrality, objectivity and professionalism.

Especially on a day when the UN General Assembly is voting again on the Goldstone Report, we urge you to uphold these principles, and the integrity of your staff, by immediately instructing Ms. Marotta to avoid participating in, or otherwise lending support and legitimacy to, this partisan and political event.

Please know that in all your efforts to assure the adherence of the United Nation to its noble principles, you will have the full support of UN Watch.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch
Geneva, Switzerland


Geneva Summit for Human Rights, March 8-9, 2010

February 3, 2010

Human rights NGOs from around the globe have joined hands to organize the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.

To take place on March 8-9, 2010 – in parallel and to enhance the main annual session of the UN Human Rights Council – this unique assembly of renowned human rights defenders, dissidents and experts will feature victim testimonies, shine a spotlight on urgent human rights issues and situations, and call on governments to guarantee freedom of the internet for democracy and human rights activists.

INTERNET FREEDOM The Google-China Case, Censorship and Hacking: Entrepreneurs & Dissidents Debate

DEFENDING ETHNIC MINORITIES Rebiya Kadeer, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Uighur human rights hero

ATROCITIES IN SUDAN Jan Pronk, former UN Secretary-General Special Representative in Sudan

EQUALITY FOR WOMEN Massouda Jalal, former Afghan Minister of Women Affairs, first female presidential candidate

THE FUTURE OF DISSENT Yang Jianli, 1989 Tiananmen Square Hero, founder of Foundation for China in the 21st Century

•THE BURMESE JUNTA vs. AUNG SAN SUU KYI  Bo Kyi, Burmese dissident and 2008 winner of Human Rights Watch Award

COMBATING CONTEMPORARY SLAVERY Simon Deng, former Sudanese Slave

OPPRESSION IN TIBET  Phuntsok Nyidron, Buddhist nun, longest-serving Tibetan political prisoner, jailed for recording songs of freedom, winner of 1995 Reebok Human Rights Award

NON-VIOLENT PROTEST Matteo Mecacci, Italian MP, OSCE Rapporteur on human rights and democracy, activist

REPRESSION IN LATIN AMERICA  Tamara Suju, Venezuelan human rights lawyer

PRISONER FROM BIRTH Donghyuk Shin, survivor of North Korean prison camp

•“DEFAMATION OF RELIGION” vs. FREE SPEECH Owais Aslam Ali, Secretary General of Pakistan Press Foundation


Plebiszite: Volksabstimmung oder Volksverstimmung?

December 23, 2009

In einem Essay erschienen in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung klärt der Historiker Christoph Jahr die Frage, wie demokratisch Hitler an die Macht gekommen ist und was Hitlers Machtergreifung für die Debatte um Plebiszite in Deutschland bedeutet. Sind Volksabstimmungen nur noch ein Erfolgsmittel von Populisten?

“Tatsächlich kam Hitler 1933 durch die Entscheidung eines kleinen Zirkels von Beratern des Reichspräsidenten von Hindenburg an die Macht, wobei Letzterer, wie der Historiker Wolfram Pyta jüngst dargelegt hat, keineswegs jene willenlose Marionette war, als die er lange Zeit erschien.

Hitler wurde aber nur deshalb Reichskanzler, weil er zu bieten hatte, woran es den alten konservativen Eliten gebrach: eine Massenbasis.

Und ohne diese waren alle Versuche aussichtslos, Deutschland in einen rechtsautoritären Staat umzuformen, wie die Jahre ab 1930 mit ihren – ab 1932 immer schneller wechselnden – Präsidialkabinetten gezeigt hatten.”

Zum Artikel.


Alan Posener’s Column: Facts about the Swiss minaret controversy

December 2, 2009

by Alan Posener
Die Welt / Welt am Sonntag  / HIRAM7 REVIEW

The Swiss referendum on minarets is still causing an uproar around the world, and rightly so. Those who support the majority decision to ban the building of minarets in Switzerland use some arguments that are worth looking at more closely.

1. The Swiss, says Henryk M. Broder, ex-candidate for post of President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and confidant of the new German Minister of Family Affairs, who appears CC on all his e-mails, the Swiss are the first Europeans to declare their will to fight against the “islamization of their country”: www.welt.de/die-welt/debatte/article5386891/Tit-for-tat.html

Bullshit. With less than half a million Muslims in the country, Switzerland is in no danger of being “islamized”. Were that the case, banning minarets would hardly help. The only connection between banning the building of minarets and “islamization” is that presumably some of the more pious and excitable Muslims will feel less willing to integrate into Swiss society. And one can hardly blame them.

By the way, While flexing their muscles against innocent Bosnians and Turks at home, Switzerland has done nothing to help the war effort in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaida are training Djihadists and hope to face down the West in the Long War.

2. Roger Köppel, editor of  the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, actually titled his commentary on the affair “The Courageous Swiss”.

www.weltwoche.ch/onlineexklusiv/aktuell/2009-12-01-minarett-debatte-berichte-kommentare-und-termine/2009-12-01-faz-kommentar-roger-koeppel.html

Doublespeak, it seems, is alive and well and living in Zurich. Since when is it courageous when a 95% majority curbs the rights of a 5% minority? Köppel defends direct democracy, as practised in Switzerland via referendums, a “Damocles sword” against the political class, which has lost touch with the “normal” citizenry and therefore got its comeuppance last Sunday.

Switzerland, a country which is generally ruled by a consensus among the political parties, is undoubtedly a good example of the alienation of the political class from the concerns of ordinary people. That doesn’t give ordinary people the right to take out their frustration on the next best (or most visible) minority. Any democracy functions according to rules; these rules ensure that neither the political elite nor the mass of the people can simply impose their will on the country Or, more importantly, on a minority within the country.

That’s what a constitution is for. If the constitution loses its function of protecting the minority and becomes a vehicle for the enforcement of prejudice, it loses its authority. By voting to include a ban on minarets in their constitution, no less, the Swiss have voted to undermined the authority of their constitution.

3. Both Broder and Köppel argue that the vote in minarets does not infringe on religious freedom, as neither the building of mosques nor the wearing of the hijab, neither Muslim prayer nor Muslim ritual practices are banned. Indeed, the whole referendum was an exercise in futility.

But one asks oneself what the reaction would be if, say, the German authorities were to tell the Jewish communities in Germany how to build and how not to build their synagogues. It stands to reason that a discussion on the pros and cons of a particular design – for a church, mosque, synagogue or bank tower – is not only legitimate, but ought to be the rule rather than the exception. But if one can vote to include a ban on minarets in the constitution, what is to prevent further votes on the way Muslims practice their faith and present themselves in public?

4. Broder points out (as do many others) that in most Islamic countries there are severe limits on the freedom of religion; many point to the fact that in Turkey for instance, the churches are not allowed to own land and build houses of worship. Broder argues for the “tit for tat”-principle: No new mosques in Europe until, say, Turkey allows the building of new churches.

There can be no doubt that the positions of the overwhelming majority of Muslim countries are untenable and downright scandalous. Christian countries like the USA and Germany fight to free Muslim Albanian Kosovars from Serbia; to free Iraqui Shia from Saddam Hussein, to free Muslim Afghanis from the Taliban and their Al Qaida allies. And what thanks do they get? The discrimination and persecution of Christians persists.

But surely the answer cannot be to emulate this scandalous practice? The whole point of being a secular Western society is to rise above such petty squabbles. Turkey for instance will have to decide whether it wants to join the European Union, in which case the churches must enjoy all the rights enjoyed by the state-run Diyanet or religious office – or whether it wishes to remain outside. Switzerland has done an immense disservice to those who are trying to convince the Turks to proceed down the road to Europe. Thanks for that, guys.

It is surely no coincidence that after the worst banking crisis in more than half a century, first a central banker – Thilo Sarrazin – implies that Muslim immigrants are the source of constant problems, then a banking nation decides that four minarets are indicative of “Islamization”. Anyone can have an opinion on minarets, most people would be scared of having to decide on whether or not to bail out banks, how much capitalization to prescribe, how to regulate hedge funds etc. So the “brave Swiss” (bullshit!) pretend that there is simply no banking problem to take care of out there. Instead, they create a “Muslim problem”.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles therein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the publisher.


British Army Hero Tells UN Human Rights Council: ‘Israeli Defense Forces Most Moral Army in History of Warfare’

October 16, 2009

Today’s emergency United Nations Human Rights Council debate in Geneva on the Goldstone Report predictably saw a line-up of the world’s worst abusers condemn democratic Israel for human rights violations.

In a heated lynch mob atmosphere, Kuwait slammed Israel for “intentional killing, intentional destruction of civilian objects, intentional scorched-earth policy”, saying Israel “embodied the Agatha Christie novel, ‘Escaped with Murder’. Pakistan said the “horrors of Israeli occupation continue to haunt the international community’s conscience.” The Arab League said, “We must condemn Israel and force Israel to accept international legitimacy.” Ahmadinejad’s Iran said “the atrocities committed against Palestinians during the aggressions on Gaza should be taken seriously” and followed up by the international community “to put an end to absolute impunity and defiance of the law.”

What the world’s assembled representatives did not expect, however, was the speech that followed (see video and text below), organized by UN Watch. The speaker is a man who repeatedly put his life on the line to defend the democratic world from the murderous Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. The moment he began his first sentence, the room simply fell silent. Judge Goldstone, author of the biased report that prompted today’s one-sided condemnation, had refused to hear Colonel Kemp’s testimony during his “fact-finding” hearings.

But UN Watch made sure today that this hero’s voice would be heard – at the United Nations, and around the world.

***

UN Human Rights Council, 12th Special Session
Debate on Goldstone Report – Geneva, October 16, 2009

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Did More to Safeguard Civilians Than Any Army in History of Warfare

Colonel Richard Kemp served in the British Army from 1977 - 2006.
Colonel Richard Kemp served in the British Army from 1977 – 2006.

Thank you, Mr. President.

I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

The IDF faces a challenge that we British do not have to face to the same extent. It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Thank you, Mr. President.


Criticism of UN Human Rights Council

August 18, 2009

Seventy-four nongovernmental organizations called for an end to a bloc system that they say allows countries guilty of human rights abuses to hold seats on the UN Human Rights Council.

“We call on all UN member states to bring vote trading arrangements and uncompetitive elections for the council to an end. The credibility of the council and its ability to respond to human rights violations hang in the balance,” the NGOs declared.

The statement comes a month before the Human Rights Council opens its fall session in Geneva.

Read full story.


Das Scheitern des neureichen Bürgertums

April 27, 2009

Der Erfolg ist eine Folgeerscheinung, niemals darf er zum Ziel werden. (Gustave Flaubert)

Kultur basiert auf einer Vielfalt von  Traditionen, die sich über Jahrtausende hinweg bewahrt haben. Neureichen können da nicht mitspielen; denen fehlt einfach die Grundlage. In einem Essay erschienen in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung bestätigt der Soziologe und Mitherausgeber der Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft Leviathan und von WestEnd. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung Prof. Dr. Sighard Neckel diese Vermutung. Mit der weltweiten Finanzkrise ist die ausschließlich an Geld und Status bemessene kulturlose Erfolgskultur der Neureichen definitiv gescheitert:

“Wenn heute unter den Vermögensbesitzern der Verlust von Renditen als persönliches Problem und psychische Krise ankommt, dann schlägt sich darin auch nieder, wie wirksam sich die Maximen des raschen finanziellen Erfolgs im Habitus des modernen Bürgertums bereits verankern konnten.”

Zum Artikel.


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